How important is a business persona? For many leaders, they must manage the twin pressures of presenting a strong, competent face to the world while also presenting themselves as authentic. Modern leadership demands authenticity, a sense that someone is offering something genuine of themselves, but this can come at a cost.
“There is a significant blurring of the lines between the real you and the business you,” explains Melinda Beckett-Hughes, founder of Ayuda. “In many workplace cultures, as a leader it’s not going to be enough to be outwardly one thing and inwardly something quite different.”
However, when something catastrophic or devastating hit leaders privately, how do they cope with feeling emotionally vulnerable at work?
Emotional Leadership Challenges
Just as the workplace has become a more challenging place, with huge amounts of information for people to process, and increased leadership responsibilities, so roles require more emotional input.
“Leaders have to be able to properly engage with the people they’re working with, which can leave them feeling more emotionally exposed”
The risk is of an emotional overload, where the stresses and strains of work collide with personal issues. This then finds an outlet in inappropriate situations, in the workplace, interacting with colleagues and subordinates.
“Emotions at work are hard to handle,” Melinda says. “They can arise in any number of situations, from frustration with performance to insecurity about your own position, or a sense that your feelings are undermining your confidence.”
Managing Emotions at Work
Melinda’s company, Ayuda, helps leaders with coaching, mentoring and personal issues. She is aware that it can often be the case that people’s issues are not easily compartmentalised.
“Success in the modern work environment means understanding our emotions, and recognising how our emotions affect our actions and the actions of other people”
The issue of dealing with emotional turmoil as it overruns into your work can affect both men and women equally. Melinda comments, “The culture is shifting and men too are increasingly likely to find their work personas having to grapple with personal emotional difficulties.”
Melinda provides coaching for leadership but also help, support and advice on a personal level for people looking to turn their lives around.
“Like a computer overloaded with data, sometimes it’s about de-cluttering our minds and in so doing, gaining clarity,” she says. “At the same time, it’s important to learn to manage emotions at work.”
This can involve learning to express emotions appropriately and how to give feedback effectively.
“Leaders under pressure need to be mindful of what is triggering an emotional challenge and learn to cope with it rationally”
“Crucially, it’s about maintaining support systems outside the workplace,” Melinda concludes. “Whether this is spending time with supportive people, having a break from work, or even taking time off to gain sound, therapeutic guidance.”
If you would like to read more of Melinda Beckett-Hughes’ thoughts on this issue, please read her LinkedIn post, Leaders: Can you be The Real You at Work?